Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Palin Hit a Nerve

There have been some great responses to the NRO editorial yesterday that took an unnecessary shot at Sarah Palin over her use of the term "death panel." Andy McCarthy's dissent at NRO literally shreds the editorial's lame assertion Palin's "death panel" description is "hysteria about hysteria." It is the NRO editorial that "leaps a logical canyon" as it gives credence to Palin's rational assessment of rationing yet claims her descriptor is somehow irrational.

That Palin is a lightening rod for both the left and the right, is somewhat indisputable at this point. Palin's barn-burner speech at the convention last August was a clarion call that rallied a right-wing base to the side of a candidate they were reluctant to embrace. On the left, an army of bloggers and media-types found a looming threat to the election of their heretofore unassailed candidate. The army was dispatched to destroy this threat with a crazed fervor that was chilling at a minimum. Rather than question the manic attack machine unleashed by the left, much of the right leaning beltway elite chose to pile on instead.

In short, the beltway elites were embarrassed by Palin and they denied her far more often than they defended her. This is the real underlying message of the NRO editorial, they still deny her, despite the rather obvious Palin victory in the messaging war on health care thus far. McCarthy notes this same rush to deny from the elites with Reagan:
Many of those same elites didn't like Ronald Reagan's jarring "evil empire" rhetoric. But "death panels" caught on with the public just like "evil empire" did because, for all their "heat rather than light" tut-tutting, critics could never quite discredit it.
Palin managed a rarity for Republican politicians these days, she bypassed the media elites and spoke directly to the people.

Palin delivered a message that resonated with broad sketches of the values espoused by each party formed and reaffirmed over time. The Democrats promote "choice," a candy-coated euphemism for unrestricted abortions for all. In the minds of a majority of Americans, "choice" does not equal "life." Obama is so fundamentally tied to unrestricted abortion, Pundette aptly names him "our abortion President." Abortion is not always a driving factor in voters' choice of candidates unfortunately. While Obama's support for FOCA and voting record on partial birth abortion in the Illinois Senate may not have hurt him with some voters in November, it is likely Palin's pro-life profile elevates those issues for those who ignored them when they went to the polls.

The abortion debate comes at an entirely different end of the lifespan spectrum than the "death panels" and rationing discussion however. Palin moves the debate a bit further down the spectrum raising concerns for the potential effects of rationing on children with disabilities in a way that few others in the political arena could. Dan McLaughlin wrote in the New Ledger last week, Palin's invocation of Trig created a flashpoint in the collective memory of the public about the left:
it is the Left that insists that it is appropriate to abort a child when prenatal testing reveals such a condition, and it was from the Left that we heard crude jibes suggesting that Palin should have done just that.
It is hard to imagine this same group would suddenly protect with passion access to care for a child they believe would have been better off had he not been born.

McLaughlin's piece makes another rather brilliant point that seems to have been missed in the discussion to a degree. McLaughlin suggests the Schiavo case may well be another memory flashpoint contributing to the association with death for the left:
But little attention was paid to the fact that the Right vs Left narrative of the Schiavo episode - one willingly stoked by Democrats eager to capitalize on precisely the “Religious Right overreach” angle - painted the Left as the advocates of ‘pulling the plug’ on Terri Schiavo.
While some on the left have attempted to "resurrect" Schiavo's case in an effort to point to more "Religious Right overreach," they may have done this at their peril. As McLaughlin correctly argues, "the American people know that the same people who wanted to pull the tube from Terri Schiavo want to be trusted not to pull the plug on grandma."

Palin personifies a stark contrast to the death association formed in the public's collective memory of the left. This gave undeniable resonance to her choice of words "death panel." Her words hit a simmering nerve of truth that forced an extraction of the contentious end of life counseling and brought the harsh reality of rationing to the fore. Perhaps the beltway elite will think twice before they run from her in the future, though truthfully, I doubt it. They seem to prefer strategies that allow Democrats' vulnerabilities to fester in hopes of gaining some meaningless absolution from main stream media elites. Will they ever learn?

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